What Voters need to know, Constitutional Amendment Election

By Timothy J. O’Malley, Special to the Journal

The following article is a voter’s guide comprised from two different sources to help and aid the voter know what is proposed for the 2017 Constitutional Amendment Election and to have a better understanding what is on the ballot. The guide contains both sides of the argument, for and against, allowing the reader to vote while informed. Early voting started Oct. 23 through Nov. 3, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. at the Limestone County Courthouse, Room G-1, located at 20  W. State Street in Groesbeck. The day of the election will be held on Nov. 7 at the Limestone County Courthouse, Room G13.

STATE OF TEXAS PROPOSITION NUMBER 1 (HJR 21)

“The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for an exemption from ad valorem taxation of part of the market value of the residence homestead of a partially disabled veteran or the surviving spouse of a partially disabled veteran if the residence homestead was donated to the disabled veteran by a charitable organization for less than the market value of the residence homestead and harmonizing certain related provisions of the Texas Constitution.”

What it means: This cleanup amendment would change an amendment approved by Texas voters in 2011 and would authorize property tax exemptions for certain partially disabled veterans or their surviving spouses whose homes were donated to them by charity for less than market value.

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) Stance: Support Proposition 1. Their Reasoning: This is a clean-up amendment for a constitutional amendment that TFR supported in 2011 and Texas voters approved.

According from League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund (lwvtexas.org)

Arguments for: • Currently a partially disabled veteran who paid part of the cost of a donated home receives no property tax exemption. Proposition 1 would give the same property tax exemption to a partially disabled veteran who paid something towards the value of a donated home that is currently received by partially disabled veterans whose homes were donated in full.

Arguments against: • Proposition 1 would continue a pattern of giving exemptions to specific groups of people. Reducing the taxes on specific groups usually means other groups must absorb more of the tax burden. • The legislature should focus its efforts on reducing the tax burden on everyone.

STATE OF TEXAS PROPOSITION NUMBER 2 (SJR 60)

“The constitutional amendment to establish a lower amount for expenses that can be charged to a borrower and removing certain financing expense limitations for a home equity loan, establishing certain authorized lenders to make a home equity loan, changing certain options for the refinancing of home equity loans, changing the threshold for an advance of a home equity line of credit, and allowing home equity loans on agricultural homesteads.”

What it means: This amendment will trim regulations concerning how much Texans can borrow through home equity loans. This amendment proposes changes to the following terms:

Fee cap. Lower the maximum limit on fees that can be charged to borrowers from 3% to 2% of the loan principal and exclude the cost of appraisals, property surveys, title insurance premiums, title insurance, and title examination reports from calculation of the maximum limit on fees.

Refinancing. Allow a home equity loan to be refinanced as a non-home equity loan secured with a lien against the property if certain conditions are met. This is currently prohibited.

Home equity lines of credit. Repeal a provision that prevents additional advances on a home equity line of credit if the unpaid principal exceeds 50% of the fair market value of the homestead.

Agricultural homesteads. Allow a home equity loan for a homestead designated for agricultural use. This is currently prohibited.

Approved lenders. Expand the list of approved home equity lenders by adding subsidiaries of banks, savings and loan associations, savings banks, and credit unions; and replace mortgage brokers with mortgage bankers and mortgage companies.

TFR Stance: Support Proposition 2. Their Reasoning: The less that government interferes in the free market, the more options citizens will have and the less they will pay.

According from League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund (lwvtexas.org)

Arguments for: • The proposed amendment will make home equity loans more accessible, lower costs for borrowers, and provide consumers more choice. • Free cap. Lenders will be able to make loans under $100,000 more easily; the fee cap will not include fees by third parties, and consumers will still be protected against extreme fees from lenders. • Refinancing. Allowing a home equity loan to be refinanced into a non-home equity loan with reasonable restrictions would increase consumer choice. The borrower could combine a home equity loan with another loan to have one payment or to get a lower interest rate. • Home equity lines of credit. The change would allow the borrower to initially take out a smaller loan and pay less interest before borrowing more against the line of credit. • Agricultural homesteads. Owners of large and small agricultural homesteads should have the same choice as other Texans to borrow against their property under the consumer protections of a home equity loan.

Arguments against: • The proposed amendment will raise costs for borrowers and remove several important consumer protections that have worked for borrowers and lenders. • Free cap. Adding the costs of appraisals, surveys, and title insurance and reports on top of a maximum fee limit of 2% of the loan principal would likely be higher than the current 3% cap on all fees. • Refinancing. Home equity loans have important protections related to judicial foreclosure and protection against loss of non-home assets. A new home equity loan with the consumer protections is a better option than a non-home equity loan without those protections. • Home equity lines of credit. Current limits require the borrower to budget carefully for projected expenses and their payment. • Agricultural homesteads. Home equity loans and lines of credit for agricultural properties are costlier than farm operating loans and lines of credit due to the added large costs for appraisals, surveys, and title insurance and reports.

STATE OF TEXAS PROPOSITION NUMBER 3 (SJR 34)

“The constitutional amendment limiting the service of certain officeholders appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate after the expiration of the person’s term of office.”

What it means: This amendment would eliminate “holdover” appointments by removing officeholders from their positions at the conclusion of their term rather than allowing them to stay on until their position has been filled through appointment.

TFR Stance: Support Proposition 3. Their Reasoning: Appointed office holders shouldn’t be allowed to remain in office far beyond the expiration of their term, a practice which has unfortunately become very common in Texas. This amendment encourages the governor and the Texas Legislature to be more effective and diligent in their appointments.

According from League of Women Voters of Texas Education Fund (lwvtexas.org)

Arguments for: • This amendment would limit the amount of time a governor’s appointee can serve and would address concerns about some gubernatorial appointees being held over in their positions long after their terms have expired. Placing the limit at the end of a regular legislative session allows Senate confirmation hearings of appointees. • Placing a limit on how long an appointee could continue serving in office would ensure that these unsalaried volunteer positions are rotated among qualified Texans.

Arguments against: The Governor has many appointed positions to fill; the existing law allows flexibility for appointees to continue serving until qualified replacements are found. • This amendment could result in many important appointed positions remaining vacant if a qualified replacement is not found within a certain time frame.

To read more of this story, pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of The Groesbeck Journal! You can also subscribe online or call 254-729-5103.

 

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